Essential reporting in volatile times.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.


Learn more about HD Media

Even in an ordinary election year, if there is such a thing, this would be an extraordinary story. It is even more extraordinary in the polarized and tumultuous times that we are living through right now.

The story is this: A candidate received 30% of the vote against a three-term incumbent congressman. Then, instead of supporting the congressman from his own party, he turned around and endorsed the first-time challenger from the opposite side of the aisle.

It is beyond my scope here to speculate on what motivated this endorsement. What I can attest to is that this first-time challenger is an extraordinary candidate who is highly deserving of this kind of support.

The first-time challenger, Cathy Kunkel — a Democrat running against incumbent Republican Alex Mooney for West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District — does not have a familiar West Virginia name. She came to our state 10 years ago to help make a difference to the better. She has worked day in and day out, mostly under the radar, in working with others in order to make things better.

Her work has included successfully advocating for improvements in coal mining communities, for clean water in the aftermath of the chemical spill in Charleston and for better salaries and benefits for teachers, school service personnel and public employees. She has testified to the West Virginia Public Service Commission on behalf of ratepayers in complex cases.

Cathy also served as the co-founder of a grass-roots organization based in Charleston that helped elect or reelect some of our most effective new and veteran legislators and city officials.

For the past year, Cathy has been hard at work getting to know and listen to citizens who are living throughout our 2nd Congressional District. She has spent time in person and virtually in each of the 17 counties in the district.

Her large corps of volunteers has handwritten and mailed out 80,000 postcards introducing her to voters. These volunteers are now calling and texting 100,000 residents of the district between now and Election Day.

Cathy’s campaign is funded primarily through individual contributions from residents and the diaspora of West Virginians and others who she knows from around the country. She has resolutely declined to take any corporate donations so that she can dedicate herself to the working families and other citizens of our state.

Her policy positions all focus on addressing the best interests of the people of West Virginia. These are not empty promises. All of her positions represent issues that she has devoted her life to working on. She already has a track record of substantial achievements related to these issues.

For more specific information, go to her website at www.kunkelforcongress.com and watch the brief informative discussions that she archives on her Facebook page.

Cathy’s professionally done TV and Facebook videos are an excellent way to gain insight into who she is. (A disclaimer: I was honored to be filmed for them.) These videos were made by J.D. Belcher, a former coal miner who became a skilled and sensitive filmmaker. J.D. has the gift of being able to show the depth of a person even within the limits of a very short film.

Cathy is quick-thinking and one of the smartest people I know. At the same time, she is true to herself and her work and caring for others and our surroundings.

Cathy is the same person wherever she is. She will be the same in D.C. as she is here at home on the modest East End block where both of us live. She has spent her time here working hard to help make our state a better place. She will take that work ethic to D.C. in a way that will also go beyond us here to contribute to a better nation and a better world.

I remember my first trip to D.C. over 65 years ago, when I was 10 years old. My mother and sister and I were welcomed into the office of the congresswoman from our district, who also arranged for us to have a tour of the Capitol building.

I still have the photographs from that trip. One of them shows me smiling as I stand in my white short-sleeved blouse and multicolored full skirt outside the congressional office building.

This year, whenever I see Cathy, I envision her opening the door and welcoming me into her D.C. office. I cannot ask for a better person to represent me in Congress.

A vote for Cathy is an investment in a better future for ourselves and our state. I invite you to join me in helping to elect an extraordinary person, neighbor, friend and public servant as our new U.S. congresswoman from the 2nd District.

We can all depend on Cathy to do us proud while never forgetting us or her home in our great city and state.

Betty Rivard, of Charleston, is a retired social worker and planner for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.